11 Jan 2012

Fish-balls and the fire of entrepreneurship

Imagine a Philippine market in the evening and seeing a foreigner in a nice suit and tie selling fish-balls for 10 cents? Well that was me.

It was a Fish-ball cart business in Manila, the Philippines. It earned me 60 dollars a month at best, while maintaining my full-time financial analyst position at Standard & Poor’s. You can’t imagine the kind of reactions I was receiving from my friends, colleagues, and pretty much every single person that saw me in the marketplace. They couldn’t comprehend what was going on. The suit I was wearing was probably more valuable than the annual revenue from that business. I didn’t mind. I had been hit by the fire of entrepreneurship one day when I woke up. I thought I had the right idea, at the right place and at the right time. Nobody could take me down. The only way that business could go was upwards.

This part-time business didn’t last long of course, but there were many lessons learned. Probably the most important lesson I learned was to never be afraid or embarrassed by rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty. Another lesson I learned from that business was to keep track of my cholesterol…

Now after many years, having moved to Dubai, working for large local conglomerates as an investment professional; this entrepreneurial heat struck me again. Thankfully it isn’t selling squid-balls this time. Instead, it is creating the world’s first financial statement analysis web-application that provides a dashboard for how a company is performing in terms of liquidity, debt management, asset management, and profitability. It does that by using essential financial ratios, comparing them to a previous term’s results and, most importantly, to industry standards.

In the current market situation, 80% of small businesses will go bankrupt within the first five years of operation, and 70% of the remaining companies will go bankrupt within the following five years. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against today's small business owner.  

Even large, multinational organizations with top-notch talent and resources spend millions of dollars on consultancy services. A typical Fortune 500 company usually spends around 2% of annual revenue on consultancy expenses. Medium-sized organizations usually prefer to hire consultants at a daily rate that ranges from $1,000 - $4,000 per day. These extreme expenditures are for good reason. The services provided by knowledgeable consultants enable these companies to prosper during uncertain economic times, and among fierce competition, by closing expertise or manpower gaps.

But, how about small businesses? The truth is that most small businesses cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars per day in consultancy fees. It would take a consultant at least 2 man-days just for the analysis of the business. Nor can these small businesses afford to do without sophisticated and personalized financial analysis. Indeed, they probably need it more than the larger companies do. That's where Alphadore.com brings significant value. Alphadore provides the small business owner with valuable analysis for a fraction of a typical consultancy fee, by utilizing sophisticated software that analyzes and interprets the statements.

The Cass MBA was invaluable to the process of realizing this idea. As a second year MBA student, I have almost finished all of the core modules. This has allowed me to start connecting the dots from strategy to marketing, or from finance to quantitative methods; which then enabled me to successfully carry out the project of launching Alphadore.com to the right market segment at the right time. Alphadore is showing 30% growth per month and has already reached 800 customers in about 5 months of its existence. What’s even better is that I have no cholesterol problems anymore.

H. Deniz Sasal is a 2nd year Cass MBA student, former analyst at Standard & Poor’s and has substantial experience in investment and project management firms. He is currently working for a Project Management Consultancy Firm full time helping companies increase their project profitability and efficiencies. He is also a certified project management professional (PMP) and a certified risk management professional (PMI-RMP).

Visit http://www.alphadore.com

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